My son, who’s in his third year of college, returned home for an unexpected visit this past three-day weekend.
His campus is only a couple of hours away from our home, but he doesn’t have a car there with him, so for the last 2 years, he hasn’t come home unless it’s for an extended break from classes. When he texted me this past week saying he was getting a ride home on Friday with a friend, he explained that he just needed a little break – from the stresses of a hard semester with a couple of very challenging classes.
As I did my little Mom Happy Dance, I sensed that he just wanted to sleep in his own bed, spend time with us and his beloved dog, and eat food that he didn’t have to cook for himself. Pretty standard for a kid away at school. From the moment he arrived at home, until the minute I watched him and his friend pull out of our driveway, I simply wanted to bask in his presence. Probably sounds a little weird, but I have a feeling that other parents feel similarly when they’re in the same situation.
For the three mornings that my son was home, I had to exercise some real patience and restraint to keep myself from waking him. I knew he desperately needed to catch up on sleep, so I waited and busied myself each morning, looking forward to him finally coming downstairs for coffee. So we could talk and laugh and catch up on so many little things.
When your kid leaves home it’s the little things you miss.
All weekend, we had fun shopping and eating and watching football on TV. Mundane errands like taking him to get a flu shot and buying a pair of winter gloves were thoroughly enjoyable. Because when your kid leaves home, once you move past all of the big feelings, it’s the little things you miss the most. And when they return, you discover a real delight in simple things like watching them devour homemade pancakes, or lie on the floor, absentmindedly petting their dog as they scroll on their phone.
Their laughter is one of the best sounds on the planet. You revel in the small indicators that they are becoming more mature each time you see them. Your heart swells as they quicken their step to hold open a door for you or ask you how work has been going.
You don’t realize how easy it is for several hours to slip by while you just sit together ignoring the television, talking and enjoying the presence of each other’s company. A thought started to form as I glanced at the clock on Saturday evening, “Oh, no! I’ve gotten nothing important accomplished all afternoon.”
Then it hit me – just sitting with my son and re-connecting was extremely important. It was the unspoken priority of our time together. It was why, from a surface perspective, I was getting nothing done. But from the deeper parent-child bond perspective, we were both accomplishing something essential.
I suddenly didn’t feel guilty for just hanging out and “wasting” time.
I understood that the strange need to just sit and be present with my son was something. And it was serving a larger purpose. It’s downright hard to keep up with a normal schedule when adult children return home, because it becomes such a unique and limited space in time.
When a child leaves and returns infrequently, all of those little things that often became annoying when they lived at home, like errands and cooking, move from a place of “I have to” to a place of “I want to.”
Because you realize that the time that you get to be together is now a conscious and deliberate act on their part. I know my son could have just stayed at school and gotten extra sleep and hung out with friends, but he needed the comfort of home, both the physical and the emotional.
And while I definitely could have accomplished more work, errands, and exercise over the past three days, none of those things are more valuable or meaningful than spending time with my child, relaxing and just being in shared space. I didn’t have to cook for him, or drive him anywhere, or watch TV with him – he asked me to do none of those things. But I had the privilege to do all of those things, because I wanted to, and I loved every darn minute of it.
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